Spain PM Rajoy fends off criticism in no-confidence debate

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Conservative Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Tuesday defended his government and its success in getting Spain's economy out of crisis during a marathon no-confidence debate called against him because of the myriad corruption scandals involving his ruling Popular Party.

After over 12 hours of debate, a confidence vote was scheduled for Wednesday but was not expected to get the required backing of an absolute majority of deputies needed to oust Rajoy.

Rajoy did battle chiefly with Pablo Iglesias, leader of the far-left Podemos party, who presented the motion and his candidacy as an alternative leader.

But Podemos only has 67 deputies in the 350-seat parliament and not many supporters.

The leading opposition Socialist party, with 84 deputies, rejects Rajoy but is likely to abstain rather than support Iglesias, whom it deems to be an anti-establishment populist.

Rajoy heads a minority government since elections last year. His party, with 134 seats, should have the support of the centrist Ciudadanos party's 32 deputies and several smaller groups.

Iglesias pummeled Rajoy with accusations and said he would "be remembered as the president of corruption."

Podemos' No. 2, Irene Montero, listed the dozens of corruption cases engulfing Rajoy's party and demanded that it "give the stolen money back, every cent of it, and ask for forgiveness."

Rajoy has been dragged into one of the most damaging of the cases, an alleged kickbacks-for-contracts scheme to finance party activities. He testifies as a witness in the case July 26.

He argued there were cases of corruption in all parties but said it was not the norm and no case involved any member of his government.

He accused of Podemos of being a radical group bent on upsetting Spain's stability.

Boasting that Spain in 2017 was growing at double the rate of its neighbors and creating a half-million jobs yearly, Rajoy said Iglesias' radicalness made him unfit to be premier and "would lead us back into crisis.

Podemos emerged in 2013 from grassroots protests that had swept across the country during the five-year severe economic recession that ended that year.

Tuesday's debate came as Spain's central bank revised upward its 2017 growth forecast from 2.8 percent to 3.1 percent.

Rajoy has made economic growth and job creation his chief goals since first taking office in 2011.


Associated Press reporter Aritz Parra contributed to this story.